• Laura Facussé
  • Lei Xia
  • Yangyang Yang
  • Lex Fridman
  • Bruce Mehler
  • Bryan Reimer
July 10, 2017

Autonomous Vehicle User Interface Publication

Co-authored “To Walk or Not to Walk: Crowdsourced Assessment of External Vehicle-to-Pedestrian Displays,” which reported on an autonomous vehicle study with MIT AgeLab; single-handedly developed the top four (of 30) designs, these designs were unequivocally recognized as “most successful” in user testing. Read the Publication, here.

What will replace current forms of communication when a human is no longer actively driving a vehicle?

Researchers, technology reviewers, and governmental agencies have expressed concern that automation may necessitate the introduction of added displays to indicate vehicle intent in vehicle-to-pedestrian interactions. An automated online methodology for obtaining communication intent perceptions for 30 external vehicle-to-pedestrian display concepts was implemented and tested using Amazon Mechanic Turk. Data from 200 qualified participants was quickly obtained and processed. In addition to producing a useful early-stage evaluation of these specific design concepts, the test demonstrated that the methodology is scalable so that a large number of design elements or minor variations can be assessed through a series of runs even on much larger samples in a matter of hours. Using this approach, designers should be able to refine concepts both more quickly and in more depth than available development resources typically allow. Some concerns and questions about common assumptions related to the implementation.

Experiment Conclusion

Experience implementing the assessment methodology described herein MTurk demonstrates that this approach can be applied in a cost-effective manner for identifying design concepts that may be appropriate for more detailed development and testing. Since a relatively large number of elements or minor variations can be tested through a series of MTurk runs in a matter of hours (as opposed to weeks or months for focus groups or experimental simulation or field testing), designers should be able to refine concepts both more quickly and in more depth than available development resources typically allow. Factors that are often difficult to explore during design phases (e.g. culture, demographics, prior mental model, etc.) can be factored in early in the process. It is worth noting that there is nothing in this method of early-stage design development that is limited to the messaging application explored in this study; it should be equally applicable to work on other design elements such as interior interface icons, graphics, gages, and other forms of information presentation in automotive, consumer electronics, advertising, and other domains.

Early Stage Design Assessment

Careful and extensive testing vehicle-to-pedestrian communication concepts under real-world conditions and with a broad demographic sampling would seem to be indicated before a design is put into general use due the potentially safety-critical implications of miscommunication. Given the inherent costs of real-world validation testing, efficient methods for early-stage concept assessment are highly desirable for narrowing in on designs that are promising and setting aside those less likely to prove out. Further, early stage methods that make it practical to test a large number of minor design variations increase the probability of elucidating subtle considerations that may lead to optimized implementations.

Research Project


Qualified Participants


Display Concepts Tested


Month Duration